Ben Kingsley wasn’t always Ben Kingsley. Born to a father of Ismaili and Indian Gujarati descent (by The Radio Times), and of an English and Russian Jewish mother, he was given the name Krishna Bhanji (traveler boy). However, he chose to change his name to gain more recognition in the English-speaking acting community.

In an interview with BAFTA, Kingsley recalls auditioning for “Rada” and hearing the casting director announce that he was ready to meet “Christina Blange.” After waiting in awkward silence, Kingsley realized, “Oh my God, that’s me.” It turned out the director had trouble pronouncing “Krishna Bhanji” and couldn’t read Kingsley’s sloppy handwriting – hence “Christina”. Eventually, Christina didn’t get the part.

After the incident, Kingsley said his father gave him blunt advice: If his name was hurting his chances of getting gigs, he should just change his name. The moment he anglicized his name, he started getting job offers. Kingsley added: “I changed my awkward made-up Asian name to a more pronounceable and acceptable universal name in order to play Mahatma Gandhi. That’s your irony.” Of course, Kingsley has adopted his new name and can’t imagine it any other way. “For many, many years I have signed my Ben Kingsley portraits,” he told the Radio Times. “It’s who I am.”